Wednesday Write-in #23


Welcome to the Wednesday Write-in!

CAKE.shortandsweet runs a write-in every week to writers to practise their skills, and get chatting to each other about their work. Everyone is welcome to join in, and the more people you tell, the more everyone will get out of it.

 

Prompts

kiwi  ::  master at work  ::  reminder  ::  flash  ::  caught cheating

Guidelines

There are no hard and fast rules, but here are some brief guidelines:

  • You can use the prompts as inspiration or try to work them into your story somehow. Use as many as you want.
  • When your story is done, post it online (your blog/twitter/in a comment here), tag with #wednesdaywritein and comment with a link so we can read it. You can write as many stories as you like.
  • Please take the time to read and comment on as many other stories as you can.

Featured Story

We’ll feature our favourite story on the blog with a review of it and links to the author’s blog/twitter/facebook if relevant.

Posts will generally go up at 12am(ish) on Wednesday – stories are due by 10am Thursday (UK) to be considered for the featured story. You can keep posting your work after this, it just won’t be featured.

The winner will also be eligible to publish on our special CAKE.shortandsweet genre through Ether Books.

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Join our CAKE.writers group on Scribophile, an online community for writers to give and receive constructive criticism.

Read our Previous Issues and check out the Submissions page if you’d like to be a CAKE.author!

 

Any questions? Otherwise, have fun writing!

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81 thoughts on “Wednesday Write-in #23

  1. ‘Now let that be a reminder to the whole class,’ he said, as he brought the ruler down on my palm. ‘Any boy caught cheating will be severely punished.’
    My abiding memory of Mr Fox was that wooden ruler, and the lesson he taught me about the unfairness of life. I was only nine and struggled to keep up with my classmates in arithmetic. I usually stumbled along near the bottom of the class, but on this particular test I had had a light-bulb moment and had grasped the concept of the problem. My marks were higher than ever before, second only to the teacher’s-pet swot whose exercise book contained only ticks, which were a rarity in mine. He was the one who always got the toffee for being first.
    ‘What have we here?’ Mr Fox stared at me over his spectacles. ‘Come up to the front, boy, and hold out your hand.’
    I glowed at the thought of the praise to come. I had done so well and felt so proud of my achievement. Maybe I would get a special prize although I only came second. Smiling and hardly able to contain my excitement I skipped up to the blackboard and held my hand out.

    • Poor boy! I like this, although I wonder if your last line loses a bit of its impact because we’ve already seen him get smacked. Perhaps it is something you could imply – so we see him pulling out the ruler, and the reader knows what will happen as the little boy excitedly stretches out his hand… This is a lovely flashback though, the teacher is very real.

    • I get a strong sense of emotion from reading this. You really captured the situation well. I was at first confused about the roundabout nature of the story (kind of flashback) but then I understood it and liked that you wrote it this way.

    • This does a great job of making you feel sorry for the poor little boy. As it is I really like the structure and it works well to evoke our sympathy because we know what’s going to happen and you end just as it’s about to happen. I also like Sarah’s suggestion. By moving the opening sentence to the end and removing the word me from the next sentence, the reader will be as surprised as the little boy which might enhance the impact. Either way I really like it.

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  4. Just a wee bit of flash fiction. Trying to get the creative juices flowing.

    The Camera Never Lies

    He nodded his head in acknowledgement, said, ‘Nice’ when he didn’t really mean it and snatched at the nearest kitchen chair. He scraped it across the tiles; the piercing squeak hurt my ears. He knew it would. I couldn’t look at him but knew he was sitting ‘the wrong way round’ on it. He hoped it would provoke a response.
    ‘So what are you going to do about it?’ His foot swung underneath the table, kicked the leg of my chair, startled me. ‘Hey? Cat got your tongue?’
    I sighed and said, ‘I don’t know.’ I thought about my day. Rarely did I have a day off work and even rarer still to have time to browse the net. My hands trembled. Fears confirmed.
    ‘How did you find out?’
    ‘Street View. I saw your car in her drive. You’ve been caught cheating.’

    • Clever idea for a story. A couple of guys at my work were reprimanded by their boss for smoking in front of our building, which he saw on Street View. “It gives our company a bad image,” he said.

      I like the hostile manner of the male character in this piece — it adds some good tension. It could do without the last sentence, in my opinion, which would leave more to the reader.

      –AM

    • Nice flash! His aggressive manner makes you think she is the one who has done wrong, then all is revealed just by one word. I agree with Anthony that I’d prefer it without the last sentence, but you’d miss using the prompt.

    • Great observational skills: it is usually the one in the wrong that is the most aggressive; I love the way you use his attitude here. It is very telling how he intimidates and almost bullies his accusor.

    • Enjoyed reading this. Interesting comments re last sentence. As it is, it’s partly a comment on privacy issues; without it, it’s pure relationship issues. Both work, I think.

    • Oh wow! That’s an excellent way to discover a cheater.
      I did feel that he was acting a bit too casual for the situation. The relationship mustn’t be that great if neither of them are pleading, crying, yelling etc.
      I also think you could just leave the last sentence as ‘Street view.’
      Great little flash 🙂

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    • I think you may be being too hard on yourself; it’s a good solid opening. Lots of directions where things can get complicated, even if it’s all simple on the surface – I’d read on just to find out how it goes wrong for the P.I.

    • I like this. It is very intriguing and would make a great opening for a novel or short story. As a reader I want to find out more. In it’s own right it is well written. I like the contrasts set up between the two men. As a reader who sometimes finds dialogue herd to follow I found this to be clear and easy to follow. Well done; keep going!

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  7. #wednesdaywritein

    Here is my attempt this week.

    Today he was chirpy, positively chirpy. The machines around him busied themselves. The illegible, but purposeful, penmanship on the charts translated as ‘you are being studied, taken care of.’ He buzzed along with the rhythm of the hospital as he recounted his story, and I was forced to indulge him once more.

    “I went out for a wee wander and suddenly my legs went from under me. I had to sit down, right there and then. A woman in a shop called the ambulance. They rushed me here. Flashing lights – the lot.”

    The nurses reassured me he was doing fine and I responded in the way I thought they would expect. It was an act for me and the more I thought about it the more contrived it felt: I nodded deeply (too deeply?), I employed the expression of a pensive listener (too pensive?), I had a stock response – (can something be too stock?).

    ONLY TWO ACTORS AT ONE BED, PLEASE

    This was, in fact, the sixth time this year that I had been called to a hospital. But it might have been the sixtieth or sixth hundredth in my lifetime, I had lost track. I knew straight away when the strange wavering, voice sought me out on my father’s mobile phone that this was another one of his ‘bad turns’. It must have been the woman from the shop’s voice: some poor, unsuspecting woman who thought she was relaying the worst of news to a devoted daughter.
    It was never quite like that but I did actually feel anxious every single time it happened- that’s what made it even more draining. ‘Maybe it’s for real this time…It won’t be…What if it is?… It’ll be just like all the other times…What if it’s not?’ My brain had to subdue the instinctive rising flutter of my stomach each time, but then I’d know for sure when I saw him. I recognised the muted elation in his face that confirmed fakery.

    I didn’t tell people what I had long suspected. Different shifts, different wards, different hospitals (his sickness journeyed). No one could keep track.

    There were only two constants: he and I.

    Perhaps I should have said something but surely I’d look deranged or heartless, if I said to some doctor who had only just met me, “That old guy in the bed there, he’s faking it. He loves hospitals. He loves drama.” And above all I was ashamed, ashamed that my dad did this. I was frightened he’d be found out and somehow we’d both be caught cheating.

    Now, I just rode along like I was in some weird buddy movie.
    I’d follow my dad to whatever hospital he was using and listen to his tale and watch as he made his leg drag or his mouth fall. Actually, he was a master at work.

    Today, I knew how this would end, piece by piece the bedside machinery that measured, monitored and mollycoddled would desert him and then the buzzing would quieten.

    • Great piece. Complex emotions, father crying wolf (in need of attention, maybe from the daughter?). The daughter always worrying in case he’s really ill (does she want him to be?) but ending up being a reluctant conspirator. I would quite like it to end with another sentence: ‘Until the next time.’

      • I tried to make the ending cyclical with the buzzing referring to the machines and the dad’s high. But I’ll look again. Thanks for reading.

    • I really like this – it’s very sad but realistic. I think it might be stronger if you ended with the sentence “There were only two constants: he and I,” and deleted the last three paragraphs. (Or should it be “him and me”?) Great work!

    • Nice story and probably does happen in real life.
      Do you think “It must have been the woman from the shop’s voice” could be rewritten to read more easily?

    • A really cleverly observed piece – well paced and well judged. This single act drama has grown throughout the years to become an all consuming disease for both protagonists. His Munchausen past has become her future complicity. Both are sad and lonely cast figures with the role of the father completely neglectful of his associated responsibilities. She has become the victim of her father and society, but her own sense of loyalty, or is it weakness, has perpetuated this.
      “He was a master at work” – begrudging admiration ?
      A really moving piece which offers no happy endings for either.

      I really enjoyed this.

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  11. I think I ended up with more of a short story than flash fiction. Apologies if its a bit long ( I have already cut out paragraphs!)
    Thrived
    After bringing my mother her breakfast, sweet milky tea and golden toast with a melted layer of honey, I went back to the kitchen to get my own breakfast. Out the window I could see a quiet layer of frost over everything. With the world whitened out for miles I felt irrelevant to the larger picture.
    I picked an orange from the fruit bowl, my eyes lingering over the ones I didn’t choose. I squeezed the one in my hand and decided it’d do. My father was an expert at choosing the perfect orange for juicing. He’d press the shiny skin in his firm ripe hands and be able to judge just how much juice it contained. He squeezed them by hand until the liquid stopped coming and he had captured every last golden drop. I’m still surprised by how much juice comes out of an orange. I managed a half glass using the juicer so I reach for another orange. This time I opt for the one that’s nestled up to a wrinkly kiwi.
    As I cut the orange in half, I got a sudden waft of my father’s smell. It’s freshly squeezed fruit juice, a zingy zesty citrus smell. I can never describe it exactly. Father had a fruit and vegetable shop out front and tree-filled fields of fruit out the back. Apples and pears grew well, large and bright. They thrived but were never picked until they were so heavy with juice they were just about to fall from the branches and onto the soil below.
    A flash of brightness outside catches my attention. I glance out the window and for a second I see my father sitting in his shed with the door swung open. A master at work surrounded by buckets, sitting in his chair busily pulping by hand and picking out pips as he went. I blinked and he was gone.
    My memory provided the image it had expected to see. I examine the blanketed landscape. Some of the clouds had parted and admit a slim slit of sunlight, a trickle of gold into an empty colourless glass. The trees were moulted. There was a stubborn beauty in the light that filled them. It emboldened the black and white scene to give a stronger sense of the earth around us, with its buried dead and winter trees emaciated, stripped down to naked bark.
    Again I got that smell, his smell; it’s not exactly like oranges, fruitier. It is the smell I associate with my childhood. The aroma of his industry would waft to the kitchen on a nice day. I remember sometimes being allowed to help in the shed. While I followed my father’s instruction, I’d get to crunch on apples and suck on oranges and pears until their juices ran down my chin and my palms and up my sleeves. The juice would dry in a viscous layer on my skin that in turn would be coated in soil and grass as I tried to rub it off in the lawn.
    The air expanded with a smell that became a taste in my mouth.
    As I think of bygone times, I feel the disappointment of my past selves looking over shoulder. Sometimes being here can be difficult. There are constant reminders of your childhood aspirations. The dreams are more vivid here and the guilt that you’ve squandered them is constant. I taste the sadness of a young boy let down by the man standing here now.
    I want to be here though. Moving back home to look after our mother made sense. I’m the only single sibling now.
    I was happily married. We were planning to start a family but that was before I was caught cheating with someone not worth throwing away my marriage for. My two weaknesses alcohol and ego conspired in my downfall. I blamed them for a while until I could deny my accountability no longer. I lived on my own in a flat for a while and avoided telling my family about the collapse of my marriage. I didn’t want them to know about what I did.
    Kate’s absence from Dad’s funeral prompted questions and my uneasy reactions answered them. They filled in their own blanks. When I began to tell them I started a sentence I would never need to finish. They knew I wouldn’t want to talk about it. I still don’t.
    After our father’s funeral we left mother to grieve in peace and we went about our business, pretending there was nothing wrong. We didn’t notice the decline in her health. She seemed to have just faded away, like she had just given up. Now she looks unbearably frail. Her voice comes out in a parched whisper. I often wonder if she was surrounded by the vitality of children would the syrupiness return to her dried-out voice.
    I can’t help but feel that I have let my parents down. I should have provided them with grandchildren to enjoy while still on this earth. I spent my youth picturing a different outcome. I know what they would both say to me if they knew how I felt. Forget the past, they’d say, put those times out of your mind.
    Mother is asleep when I go up to collect her tray. The cup is still dangling in her hand. I picture her and Father in front of the fire. She would be perched on the sofa absently cradling an almost empty cup, totally absorbed in the conversation she was enjoying with her husband.
    She must have been admiring the beauty of the morning too. Her face is turned towards the long window at my father’s side and there’s a gentle smile on her lips. The low sunshine on this white winter morning pours in through the window to create a rectangle of light about the length of my father, right where he used to sleep. The chambers of our tomb are illuminated as the light reaches in to tell us that it’s time.
    Her soft, fluffy hair is spread out on the pillow. I delicately lift the cup from her grasp ever so gently in case I wake her. That’s when I feel how cold she is. In the world outside trapped in the rigor mortis of winter, presences seemed to gather, the silence intensified. As a suitable hush descended, her tender lullabies spilled into my mind.

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